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City Council delays decision on new voting process

There’s still a chance the Albuquerque City Council could implement ranked-choice voting in time for the next local election.

Councilor Isaac Benton on Monday successfully moved to get the matter on the Council’s June 17 agenda – the final opportunity to make the change effective for the Nov. 5 municipal election.

Benton, Pat Davis and Brad Winter introduced the proposal that would allow the Council to implement RCV via ordinance for the upcoming election.

Though the proposal never cleared committee, the Council voted 5-4 Monday to take it up at the June 17 meeting.

But Councilor Don Harris – who has been critical of sitting councilors attempting to alter the system during the present election season – has introduced dueling legislation, and his measure has also been deferred until the June 17 meeting. Harris said the voters should get to decide whether they want such a change. He has proposed putting a ballot question to voters during the Nov. 5 election, meaning that even if voters approved RCV, it would not be in place until a subsequent election.

RCV is an alternative to the city’s existing runoff election system. Voters rank all candidates in a race by preference. If, after the initial tally, no candidate has at least 50% of the first-place votes – the threshold required to win Albuquerque’s mayoral and City Council races – the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated and the ballots are counted again. The process continues until someone emerges with a majority of votes, thus eliminating the need for a separate runoff election.

Councilor Trudy Jones was among those voting to get the Benton/Davis/Winter proposal on the June 17 agenda to join Harris’ bill, saying they should come up at the same time.

“As much as I don’t like the idea of it, I think we need to discuss both instead of trying to vote on one and defer another,” she said.